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MATTHEWS v. CITY OF SAN DIEGO

United States District Court, S.D. California


December 2, 2005.

VANNIL MARTINAL MATTHEWS, Petitioner,
v.
CITY OF SAN DIEGO, et al., Respondents.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: IRMA GONZALEZ, District Judge

ORDER DISMISSING CASE

On June 16, 2005, Petitioner, a person incarcerated in the San Diego County Jail proceeding pro se and apparently awaiting sentencing, filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner contended that his federal Constitutional rights were being violated because jail personnel were interfering with his access to the law library and legal supplies, physically assaulting him, interfering with his legal mail, subjecting him to illegal searches and seizures, and subjecting him to false imprisonment. (Pet. at 3-4.) In its June 27, 2005 Order, the Court dismissed the Petition because Petitioner had not satisfied the filing fee requirement, had not named a proper respondent and had not alleged exhaustion of his state judicial remedies. (See June 27, 2005 Order at 1-4.) Petitioner was informed of these pleading defects and was granted leave to file an amended habeas petition after satisfying the filing fee requirement, or file a separate civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 if he wished to pursue claims challenging the conditions of his confinement but not the fact of his custody. (Id. at 5-6.)

On September 1, 2005, Petitioner filed a Motion to proceed in forma pauperis as well as a document titled "Summons in a Civil Action" which was docketed as a First Amended Petition. (Doc. Nos. 4-5.) In an Order dated September 13, 2005, the Court granted Petitioner's Motion to proceed in forma pauperis and dismissed the action without prejudice because Petitioner had failed to name a proper respondent, had failed to allege exhaustion of his state judicial remedies and because it remained unclear whether Petitioner intended to proceed in this action with a habeas petition or seeks to bring a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On November 14, 2005, Petitioner filed a Second Amended Petition.

  FAILURE TO ALLEGED EXHAUSTION OF STATE JUDICIAL REMEDIES

  As this Court has previously informed Petitioner, state prisoners may only challenge their state court convictions via federal habeas corpus if they have first exhausted state judicial remedies. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b), (c); Granberry v. Greer, 481 U.S. 129, 133-34 (1987). To exhaust state judicial remedies, a California state prisoner must present the California Supreme Court with a fair opportunity to rule on the merits of every issue raised in his or her federal habeas petition. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b), (c); Granberry, 481 U.S. at 133-34. It appears that Petitioner's criminal case is still pending in state court. Petitioner is again advised that he must pursue his state court remedies, including direct appeal of the conviction he seeks to challenge, before proceeding in federal court.

  HABEAS CORPUS JURISDICTION

  Like Petitioner's prior petitions, it is unclear whether Petitioner seeks to challenge a state court conviction or the conditions of his confinement. As this Court has previously informed Petitioner, in order to invoke this Court's jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, he must allege that he is "in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). On the other hand, if Petitioner seeks to present claims challenging the conditions of his confinement but is not seeking to be released from custody, such challenges are properly brought pursuant to the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 488-500 (1973). When a state prisoner is challenging the very fact or duration of his physical imprisonment, and the relief he seeks is a determination that he is entitled to immediate release or a speedier release from that imprisonment, his sole federal remedy is a writ of habeas corpus. Id. at 500. On the other hand, a section 1983 action is a proper remedy for a state prisoner who is making a constitutional challenge to the conditions of his prison life, but not to the fact or length of his custody. Id. at 499; McIntosh v. United States Parole Comm'n, 115 F.3d 809, 811-12 (10th Cir. 1997).

  Although unclear, the amended petition filed in this case appears to be an attempt to file a civil rights complaint pursuant to section 1983, because it names as defendants (rather than respondents) the City of San Diego, the District Attorney, Deputy District Attorneys, Governor Schwarzenegger and number of officers who apparently work at the county jail. If Petitioner seeks to challenge a state court conviction, he may file a new habeas corpus action when his conviction is final and he has exhausted his state court remedies; however, if Petitioner is presenting a challenge to the conditions of his confinement at the San Diego Jail and is not seeking immediate or speedier release, he must file a separate civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 if he wishes to pursue such claims.

  CONCLUSION

  Based on the foregoing, the Court DISMISSES this action because Petitioner has failed to allege exhaustion of state judicial remedies and because it is unclear whether Petitioner seeks to challenge the validity of a state court conviction or the conditions of his confinement. If Petitioner wishes to challenge a state court conviction, he may do so by filing a new federal habeas corpus action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 when his state court conviction becomes final and he has exhausted his state court remedies. If Petitioner wishes to proceed with a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, he must file a separate civil rights complaint which will be given a separate civil case number. The Clerk shall close the file.

  IT IS SO ORDERED.

20051202

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